INSEAD Professor, Herminia Ibarra, reviews the research.

Investigating why women account for only 1.5% of CEOs in the world’s top 2000 performing companies, she finds three key themes:

1)      Women lack the line experience required – a 2011 McKinsey survey found that 62% of women in senior positions, in the biggest US companies, are in positions which rarely lead to the CEO role (versus 65% of senior men being in line jobs).

2)      Despite growth in formal mentoring programmes, they aren’t working as well for women as they are for men. The 2010 HBR article ‘Why men still get more promotions than women’ found that having a mentor in 2008 predicted a promotion in 2010 for men only, because they are more likely to have a mentor who is a CEO  or senior exec.

3)       Top performing women may still not be appointed to the top job because they are not seen as ‘leaderly’. INSEAD research found that whilst their leadership competencies were recognised there was one significant exception; women were rated less ’visionary’ than men and this was a big contribution to them being overlooked for the most senior roles.

The article argues that there is a clear way forward, ‘Give women stretch assignments in areas of direct impact on the bottom line, engineer your mentoring programs so that they get women into these strategic roles, and take a hard look at your performance management and succession planning processes for any evidence of subtle gender bias in what makes a leader.’

The original article can be found here.